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Companies with more mandated office days are less likely to have hired female tech talent in the past two years, according to research from Nash Squared.
As part of its annual Digital leadership report, Nash Squared found in organisations where it is mandated for employees to come into the office five days a week, only 21% of recent tech hires are women, as opposed to 28% in firms without mandated office days.
Bev White, CEO of recruitment firm Nash Squared, pointed out that a majority of care responsibilities still fall to women, making flexibility a high priority for women looking for a job in the sector.
She said: “Whatever you’ve got responsibility for means that if you’re forced to go into the office five days a week, you’re probably going to look for something more flexible.”
Where offices do have full-week mandates, she stated tech talent are “voting with their feet”, especially since the pandemic proved it’s possible to work remotely and still thrive at work.
White explained: “I’ve always believed that you should fully trust the people you work with. There are leaders that say, ‘Well, you have to earn my trust’. I’m allergic to that. I don’t get it. Sorry, I trust you. The thing is, you break that trust. Then I have the opposite approach at that point.”
Flexibility is also a good indicator of inclusion within an organisation, for example, as White stated, more flexibility usually indicates more trust in employees, and giving people permission to organise their work day around other responsibilities will make them more likely to stay in a role.
Nash Squared found the percentage of women in tech in the UK hasn’t grown over the [ast year, with their research citing the number at 23% in the UK, though this number still declines the higher up the organisation you look.
The figure was unchanged from last year, where 12% of tech’s leadership positions in the UK are made up of women, a percentage that has been the case for many years.
Nash Squared even pointed to worrying ONS statistics released earlier this year that showed the number of women in the sector dropped, despite an overall increase in the number of people being hired for tech roles.
Many have speculated in the past that widening the possible talent pool to focus more on women and underrepresented groups would help to alleviate the technology sector’s growing skills gap.
Skills and education for a digital future
While demand for certain skillsets has slowed, Nash Squared still found firms are on the lookout for technology talent, especially while they attempt to develop their IT offering – so how do we stay on top of this demand for skilled workers?
Bev White said: “There’s a big pressure to actually digitally transform your business really, really fast. So, if that’s the case, then we need to ask ourselves: How are we fuelling the pipeline?”
White mentioned young people need to be better informed about the technology sector, what roles are available and the actual impact they could make on society – something that is often said will make women more interested in the sector.
Traditional routes into the sector are also beginning to show their limitations, with White highlighting the sector needs to “cast the net wider” to solve diversity and skills gaps.
This includes the championing of routes such as apprenticeships and T-Levels, as well as ongoing learning for people within the organisation to help their skillsets develop at the same pace as technology adoption.
“We’ll have people that have amazing skills, but those skills will be running out...in one to three years’ time or less. So, instead of allowing the people and their skills to drift, the business must reskill. Let’s put some work into giving them the new skills of what we will need to keep people longer, and to keep them in the industry longer.” White concluded.
But Nash Squared found skills shortages have eased slightly in comparison to last year, with only 53% of tech leaders saying skills shortages are standing in the way of innovation, a 15% drop from the previous Digital leadership report.
Shortages of skilled talent have reduced year on year in all of the most required skillsets, according to Nash Squared, but demand still outstrips supply, with some of the biggest skills gaps persisting in areas such as data engineers, software engineers, and enterprise and technical architects.
Almost half of tech leaders asked expect to be hiring more talent into their teams this year, and White explained the apparent narrowing of the skills gap may be down to the pandemic hiring boom finally slowing.
She said: “Last year was an extraordinary year, it was kind of like the dam bursting of the pent up demand from Covid-19. There was the initial rush, and then there was a huge demand. And so you couldn’t hire people fast enough, or find people fast enough, or get enough in skills of x, y, and z skill type.”
Now, people are choosing IT projects more carefully, said White, meaning skills demands are not necessarily as high.
For example, Nash Squared found demand for cyber security employees dropped by 24% when compared with last year – but there are still lots of firms looking for skilled cyber talent, and Nash Squared predicts demand may grow again if adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technology continues to grow at pace.
Investment in technology projects and innovation is still low for several reasons, both as a persisting side effect of the pandemic and in light of recent economic difficulties, but AI is one of the areas where tech experimentation is still going ahead in 48% of firms.
Though many are exploring AI, there are some concerns, with only 21% of tech teams having an AI policy in place, though 90% believe AI regulations should be more strict.
Despite concerns, AI projects are still a large part of current tech innovation, with more the 70% of tech leaders saying the benefits of working on and incorporating AI into their businesses outweigh any potential costs.